8 Things to Consider When Sexing Your Cannabis Plants

By Kasey Craig
Published: December 25, 2020 | Last updated: December 7, 2021 11:57:23
Key Takeaways

Have you looked at your seeds or sprouts before and questioned the sex? Well, the days of wondering are over. Kasey Craig explains how to tell if your plant is male or female, and why it’s essential to know the sex.

Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning there are both male and female plants. The plants have two pairs of sex chromosomes.


Female plants have two X chromosomes, and males have XY chromosomes. And, just like humans, there is a natural 50/50 split between the two. Only, less like humans, marijuana plants can become hermaphroditic, meaning one plant can have male and female parts (a stamen and pistil).

As a grower, you’ll want to become familiar with the traits in female versus male plants. The unique qualities may be more or less desirable for your garden.


For example, females without seeds (sinsemilla) have a higher THC level. When you plant the males next to or near the females, they will begin pollination. When pollination begins, the female plants can grow seeds and lose potency. If you prevent pollination, you can ensure a higher quality of buds.

Read also: Are Cannabis Plants Monecious or Dioecious?

Now, if your goal as a grower is to create new genetics, you’ll need a male cannabis plant.


However, hermaphrodite plants aren’t healthy. If this happens, it could be that your plant has too much stress. When one of your plants becomes a hermaphrodite, check for disease, damage, or deficiencies. Also, this could be the result of a female plant being unintentionally fertilized, resulting in a lower quality harvest.

Overall, it’s best to know the sex of your plant as soon as possible. This way, you can get the results you want by harvest.


Can Male and Female Seeds be Identified?

It’s impossible to tell the sex of your cannabis seeds. Trust me, I wish we could tell the difference between male and female seeds. There is a theory that during germination, if the sprout comes from the top or bottom of the seed, it’s female. Whereas, if the sprout comes from the side of the seed, it’s a male. While this doesn’t have any scientific data to back it up, growers using this method report a high success rate. However, it’s best not to rely on this method. Plant the seeds and wait to determine the sex when it’s distinct.

How to Tell if Your Plant is Male or Female Before Flowering

Examining your plants’ pre-flower formation is a reliable way to maintain a top-notch garden. You’ll explore the nodes on the plant in search of sacs or two bracts for females.

Of course, it’s recommended that you check multiple nodes on several locations of the plant before you declare its sex. Any stressors in your garden could give you a hermaphrodite plant.

The more evident sign you have a hermaphrodite plant is when it grows anthers. Sometimes called bananas due to the curvature and yellow color; these anthers can pollinate females without bursting.

So, unless you’re looking to grow seeds in your garden, you’ll want to remove the males and hermaphrodite plants as soon as possible.

Read also: Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant

Early Signs of a Male Plant

The most successful way to know the sex of your plant before flowering is by using a small hand-held microscope. This will help you identify the pollen sac early in development.

Mature male plants grow pollen sacks at the nodes just above where the leaves connect to the stalk. The nodes on the male plant will grow until the plant matures. Then, once mature, the sac will burst and send pollen everywhere. The sooner you identify your plants, the sooner you can figure out which ones you’ll want to keep.

Early Signs of a Female Plant

If you see little hairs on the node instead of pollen sacs, you have a female plant. Instead of those small round balls, you’ll see what are called “bracts.” The bracts will have wispy little white hairs. These hairs are sometimes the only way to tell the sex of your plant before flowering.

You may not be able to determine sex until the plants are almost ready for pollination. But, if you wait too long, it may become too late to grow sinsemilla bud.

What Do Expert Growers do to Identify the Sex?

Focus on the pre-flowers that develop on the main stem and at the tips of branches. When you notice the calyx is raised, it’s most likely male. Conversely, if the calyx isn’t raised, it’s most likely female. It can be hard to notice the difference in the beginning. If you’re a novice grower, be patient with yourself — it’ll get easier over time.

Ask a Grower: I stressed my plants too much and now they are full of seed sacs. Will my buds be any good?

Can Plants Switch Sexes?

In your research, you’ve probably learned hermaphrodite plants can happen when a plant is too stressed. If you have disease or damage in your garden, your males can develop female qualities, and the females can develop male attributes.

How Do I Know if my Buds are Pollinated?

A clear indication that your female pistils have been pollinated is when they dry up and turn an orangish-brown color. If your pistils are still white, they may be okay.

Further, the female bracts become larger when she’s been pollinated. You can always test the bract by taking a pair of tweezers and opening one bract up. If a seed is inside the bract, you have a pollinated plant.

How Do I Avoid the Hassle of Cannabis Pollination?

Lucky for you, you can buy femininized seeds! As long as you get your seeds from a reputable dealer, you can virtually guarantee you have a full female crop. But, it’s up to you to decide which plants and seeds will help you reach your garden goals. Will you have an army of female plants? Or, are you going to cross-pollinate and create a new strain?

With a little patience and practice, you’ll be able to identify and dispose of male plants before they have an opportunity to pollinate your females. By following the points above, even if you’re just starting out, you should be able to identify the sex of your plants before it’s too late.

Read next: The Basics of Breeding Your Own Cannabis Strains


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Written by Kasey Craig | Senior Content Writer at MedicareFAQ

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Kasey Craig is a Senior Content Writer at MedicareFAQ. She has a wealth of knowledge on the topics of alternative medicine, insurance, travel, money, saving and more. She is working towards getting her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of South Florida. Kasey is passionate about her writing and it reflects through her content.

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